Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Filibusters should end

The filibuster may come back into the news in the next couple of months. The senate is considering changing the rules of the senate for the next term, which would start in January after the upcoming election. The current filibuster rules were created to block legislation and appointments with no other reasonable purpose. Congress should abolish it.


The modern filibuster’s creation came out of the 80’s when republicans wanted to block some judicial nominations by then President Clinton. With the support of what could be called the “Super Majority Minority”, just 40 senators, legislation and appointments can be block. This means that a minority of senators can keep action from being taken that 59 senators, a near super majority, deem important.

Filibusters in a simple form have been with human organizations since the beginning of time. Up until the 80’s, it meant that someone who was granted the right to speak could do so until they couldn’t speak anymore. In most cases it stopped the organization from moving forward on all of its business until the filibuster was over. Since this usually lasted from a few hours to a day at most, it provided time for the opposition to gather their supporters or time for information about the decision to reach the constituents. The plan for the filibusters was that the opposition could change the outcome of a vote if they just had a little more time.

Pressure not only came from the both sides of the issue but also because no other business could get done. Everything stopped and people worked at finding a solution.

But, the modern filibuster in the U. S. Senate is different. Now just 40 people can oppose cutting off debate and no vote will be taken. As long as the votes aren’t there to cut off debate, the issues goes nowhere. No deadline for a vote. No debate of the issues. And 40 people can stop the will of the senate from being expressed. Other business that the senate needs to get done just continues.

It is completely legal for 40 senators to control the senate business in a United States. The Constitution says that the senate and the house of representatives can set their own rules with only a couple of exceptions. If it was the will of the senate, they could make it so that just 5 senators in support of legislation could pass it into law.

The senate should change the rules on a filibuster that it takes no more votes to stop debate and vote on an issue than it takes to pass. If it takes a simple majority to pass legislation, it should only take a simple majority to end debate.

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